By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizona is going to get to keep its laws against "ballot harvesting'' and saying that only votes cast within the proper precinct get counted.
In a 6-3 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that both laws had some effect on the ability of minorities to vote. And that is what is generally prohibited in under the Voting Rights Act.
But Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said the statistics provided by challengers, by themselves, are not enough to overturn what he said is the state's interest in election integrity.
"The mere fact that there is some disparity in impact does not necessarily mean that a system is not equally open or that it does not give everyone an equal opportunity to vote,'' he wrote. `And small disparities should not be artificially magnified.''
Alito specifically said challengers were unable to demonstrate there is a burden on minorities caused by the 2016 law that makes it a felony to take someone else's voted ballot to a polling place.
He acknowledged that there was no evidence such fraud is taking place.
"But prevention of fraud is not the only legitimate interest served by restrictions on ballot collection,'' the justice wrote.
"Third-party ballot collection can lead to pressure and intimidation, 'Alito continued. "Further a state may take action to prevent election fraud without waiting for it to occur within its own borders.''
There was some disparity shown by the law which says that only votes cast within the proper precinct can be counted.
Challengers said votes should be counted if they would have been legal if cast in the right place. That would allow out-of-precinct votes to be tallied for things like presidential and statewide races.
But Alito said the evidence presented from the 2016 election showed that a little more than 1% of Hispanic voters, 1% of African-American voters, and 1% of Native American voters who voted on Election Day cast an out-of-precinct ballot. For non-minority voters, he said the rate was around 0.5%.
"A procedure that appears to work for 98% or more of voters to whom it applies -- minority and non-minority alike -- is unlikely to render a system unequally open,'' Alito said, referring to the test under the Voting Rights Act.
Thursday's ruling does more than just uphold the two state laws. It also appears to give wide leeway to states to enact laws with the purpose of protecting fraud even when there are claims the purpose behind them is to suppress minority voting.